QUT researcher Axel Bruns (presumably along with usual colleagues Jason Wilson and Barry Saunders) has just published some new quantitative research about blogs which contains some interesting results.
He/they undertook a textual analysis of 3 prominent blogs with somewhat divergent approaches (Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo and Andrew Landeryou) in a bid to identify consistent themes in a comparative way. The findings are described here and here, and suggest that:
… a clear distinction between the political wonkery and gossip of OC and the policy analysis of Troppo has emerged, with LP perhaps sitting somewhere in the middle (and just to be clear, neither of these descriptions imply value judgments – a mature political blogosphere probably needs all of this, and more).
I subsequently replied to Jason Wilson’s email about the research:
That’s really interesting. It’s also predictable (but nevertheless a worthwhile focus for research, I think). We quite consciously focus more on policy and longer term issues on Troppo, especially economic ones given that Nicholas, Fred Argy, James Farrell and Paul Frijters are all economists of one sort or another, as well as law because I’m a lawyer and Nicholas also has legal qualifications and some degree of interest in legal issues.
We focus more on policy issues mostly because it reflects our personal interests, but also because previous experience with running a more short-term partisan/”politics as sporting contest” approach … tended to result in long and acrimonious comment threads which generated much more heat than light and drove away many readers and potential contributors who find the more typical “robust” style of blog discourse unpleasant, time-wasting and somewhat demeaning. I’m sure our rather calmer, more analytical overall ethos is a significant factor in contributors like Fred Argy, Tony Harris, Paul Frijters and others being happy to post at Troppo from time to time.
The obverse side of that coin is that lots of readers also find the more sober, analytical style a tad boring, turgid and even “precious”. I suspect that there are more readers in total who prefer the more “boots and all” partisan footie commentary style, but it’s a trade-off we make quite consciously.
That said, I occasionally deliberately throw in slightly inflammatory posts or asides to liven things up a bit. Running a group blog and maintaining a lively, entertaining but civil and informed discourse on policy issues is an art form (or perhaps a craft to be slightly less precious) that I continually work on perfecting and adjusting.